Beijing’s First Official Lego Store Opens at Chaoyang Joy City

Here at the Beijinger (and our sister site beijngkids) we’ve never been afraid to tackle the big issues, so when news reached us that the first official Lego store in northeast China had opened in Beijing, we immediately dispatched one of our top reporters (oh, OK, me) to check it out.

Hang on, you may be thinking. I’ve been buying Lego in Beijing for years. What’s the big deal?

Well, for starters, Lego is one of the most pirated brands in the IP gray area which is China. You can’t go to any temple fair or park without seeing stalls offering superhero lookalikes featuring the iconic round studs. But legitimate Lego has long been on offer too, at stores like Toys’R’Us.

What’s different here is that this store is owned and run by Lego, and is not licensed or simply retailing its products. It’s situated on the fifth floor of Chaoyang Joy City, near Qingnianlu station on subway Line 6. On the approach you’ll find some impressive Star Wars constructions:

And in the store itself there’s an even more impressive sight, a scale model of Beijing’s Zhengyangmen Gate built by Andy Heng, a Lego Certified Professional (had I known that such a career path was available, I might have made rather different life choices …)

Lego enthusiasts are divided into two tribes: hepcats who like to mix the bricks and get creative, and those weird, anally retentive types who follow the instructions and then leave the set in its finished state forever. Both will find much to delight them at this store. All Lego’s major ranges are featured, from play-focused worlds with tie-in cartoons like Ninjago and the new Nexo Knights, to pure building experiences such as Architect and Creator.

There’s also the much-maligned Friends range, so that your daughters don’t get any silly notions about being interested in anything other than pets, ponies, and pampering.

For creatives the real attraction is what we learn is called a PAB-Wall – short for “Pick-a-Brick” wall. You can purchase the precise individual piece you need to complete your masterwork.

There’s also a “build your own mini-figure” station, where your budding Frankensteins can pick out heads, bodies and legs and create new life.

For the purposes of comparison, the Toys’R’Us nearby still stocks a substantial range of Lego. However it’s easy to see why the real fans prefer the official store, with its limited edition sets and custom pieces.

It’s not cheap, but then Lego never is. On the other hand, the quality is always high, and it has greater replay value than almost any other toy on the market. Unless you build the set then put it on a shelf to gather dust. In which case I can only pity you.

Daily 10am-8pm. 5/F, Chaoyang Joy City, 101 Chaoyang Beilu, Chaoyang District (8557 9888)

This article originally appeared on our sister site beijingkids.

Photos: Andrew Killeen


Feel the Burn: Filipino WeChat Community Group Makes Their Scorching Debut at Hot & Spicy Festival

In the wake of TBJ's successful Hot & Spicy Festival, our fiery restaurant coverage continues with our Feel the Burn series. Those of you who acquired a taste for all things hot at the fest can maintain the burn by visiting these chili-rife eateries.

When the Beijinger announced its first ever Hot & Spicy Festival, one community group thought of it as a perfect opportunity to gather and promote their country’s products. Kabayan’s Kitchen (Kusina ni Kabayan in Filipino), which simply started out as a WeChat community group for Filipino expats who longed for their native cuisine, proved a hit among attendees of the festival despite not even being a restaurant.

We caught up with Perlita Pengson, founder of Kabayan’s Kitchen, about how she and her team helped bring a slice of the Philippines to the festival.

What prompted you to set up this WeChat group?
Even though there are many Filipino chefs in Beijing, there are no Filipino restaurants or stores here. So when I crave for native delicacies I usually contact those chefs and buy their products. Last year, I created a WeChat group solely for that reason and named it Kusina ni Kabayan or Kabayan’s Kitchen (literally "compatriots' kitchen"). My friends who share the same cravings also wanted to join the group and from 10 original members of the Kusina group, we now total more than 230 following our attendance at the Hot & Spicy Festival.

What prompted you to join the Hot & Spicy Festival?
I’m a risk taker and realized that the festival was the right opportunity for us to promote Filipino cuisine, as well as a chance for our members to organize an event [the booth]. Prior to signing up for the event, I made sure that the members and volunteers knew the purpose of the group: to support Filipinos with small food businesses and help them promote their products.

You still managed to organize the booth despite not having the resources other restaurants have. How did you pull off your booth? What were the challenges that you’ve faced?
Our WeChat group is essentially a community of talented Filipinos and I know many of them can really deliver and have the skills and passion for helping others. The Hot & Spicy Festival was the first and biggest event that we’ve joined. We were quite nervous at first because we’re not a fully-fledged restaurant, hence we don’t have enough equipment and other materials. Another issue was funding, but our members helped us fundraise and find sponsors.

After we secured the necessary documents and funding, I assigned several volunteers to lead different teams. Lorena Zhao and Gandy Gulaiman led our design team and made sure our booth decorations and other branding materials would stand out. Thea Trani coordinated with our chefs while Roxanne Monalim contacted Filipino sellers across China – yes, we invited Filipino sellers from other Chinese provinces! Meanwhile, JR Torres took care of our photography and helped with food preparation, and Cecil Cagape organized the ordering and delivery of our food equipment. These Filipinos have their respective day jobs but still dedicated time to make our booth possible.

The people who cooked our dishes are chefs by trade and they accept catering services. For example, if you loved our sisig (pork seasoned with lime and chili peppers), Jason Eugene Sagun made it, together with his wife. Our Bicol Express (pork stew with long chili, coconut milk, and shrimp paste) specialty was made by Ana Liza Siman, who can’t even eat spicy food! The spicy longanisa (Filipino-style sausage) was made by Tianjin-based entrepreneur Roger Esguerra. The tasty humba dish (a southern Philippine version of adobo) that we served was prepared by Gilbert San Josewhile the unique Don’t Be Silly, Eat Sili [chili] Ice Cream was specially made by our chef coordinator, Thea Trani. Our samalamig (Filipino refreshments) were prepared by JR Torres, who used to be a barista in the Philippines.

You mentioned that there were other sellers from across China. Tell us how you came up with that idea.
The Kusina ni Kabayan community got bigger because the members invited their Filipino friends from outside of Beijing. Other members were recommended to me, and then I asked them if they could deliver their products to Beijing. Most of them said yes, so our organizing team thought it would be nice to promote them in our Hot & Spicy Festival booth.

These sellers gave us boxes worth of their products for free and shouldered the delivery to Beijing. We used their products for sample tasters and a lot of people who lined up in our booth loved those products! (To see the list of sellers, visit this page.)

So what’s next for Kusina ni Kabayan?
We were very happy that all of our customers were satisfied and many of them brought home our products! And did you know that six out of 10 customers at the booth asked us where they could buy our products? We were very thrilled that a lot of people were asking where our restaurant was. We told our customers we don’t have a physical location yet, though our sellers and cooks can do deliveries and catering services.

With that being said, I thought maybe it’s time to have a new Filipino restaurant in Beijing (there used to be one called Speedy V). We’re talking about the details and finding sponsors to make this community group a restaurant. While doing that, we are preparing our vendors and cooks for smaller events like seasonal bazaars and markets. Another team is also organizing another big project which gathered many other talented Filipinos to give them an opportunity to experience event planning and management.

To find out more about ordering Filipino food, or helping Kusina ni Kabayan grow their community group through sponsorships or donations, add Pengson on WeChat at PerlitaPengson1.

Can you handle more heat? Be sure to check out the latest issue of our Hot & Spicy themed magazine as well as our ongoing chili related restaurant coverage.

Photos courtesy of JR Torres/Kusina ni Kabayan, Andy Penafuerte


A Mini-Game About Balls Just Went Viral on WeChat

This post comes courtesy of our content partners at TechNode.

WeChat released a new selection of mini-games in April, and there is one that is on the rise to become one of the most popular mini-games the platform: “The Best Tan Yi Tan” or “The Best Bounce and Bounce” (最强弹一弹 zuì qiáng dàn yì dàn; our translation).

Tan Yi Tan resembles the classic arcade game pinball and has the qualities of addicting mobile games – players simply press down on the screen and move in horizontal directions to determine the angle at which the ball will be released, and collect points for each geometric object hit. Like in Tetris, the player must destroy each of the shapes by hitting them a certain number of times before they pass the line at the top of the screen and power-ups can be obtained by striking special objects. Scores can be shared with friends on WeChat.

Mini-games have taken WeChat by storm attracting 170 million daily active users on the messaging platform. The most popular of all is none other than Tiao Yi Tiao, also known as Jump and Jump, which was released last September. The game is so popular that WeChat recently dedicated an entire competition to Tiao Yi Tiao.

WeChat currently has over 1 billion monthly active users and mini-games are becoming one of the most popular features on the messaging platform. It took mini-games only four months to launch in-app ads, while WeChat Moments, another popular feature, waited four years for ads integration. Big corporations including Nike and McDonald’s are reportedly paying millions of yuan per day to put ads in Tiao Yi Tiao.

Images courtesy of TechNode, 最强弹一弹


Strawberry Music Festival Returns This May Day Weekend With Strongest Lineup Yet

Strawberry Festival returns home to Beijing. Well, not exactly – don’t think we’re quite back to the days of having moshpits within the Sixth Ring Road (though Changyang Sport Park hosting the Grammy Festival this weekend does give one hope) – but it’s been some time since Beijing had a proper festival that didn’t feel like it was thrown together last minute in some remote city no one has even heard of. Fact is, festivals and Beijing still don’t get along (see: cancelled Strawberry Fest 2015 and 2017 and this month's Sound of the Xity), so it warms me to see Strawberry nudge its way back this Labor Day weekend – taking place in Yuyang International Ski Resort (located in Pinggu district 70km from the city center) from Sunday, Apr 29 to Tuesday, May 1

What’s most noticeable about this year’s edition is the lineup. Whilst Strawberry (backed by Modern Sky) has been known to recycle its roster year after year with seasoned (or past their prime, depending on your preference) veterans and washed up international acts. This year, however, it looks like the organizers have taken into account the changing musical landscape, particularly in the indie scene, as well as the increasing demand for acts from Japan and Taiwan. It’s also massive, with 100 acts spread across seven stages over three days, with plenty of variety for fans of just about every musical preference. Here’s the basic breakdown (scroll down for a full, translated lineup): 

On the international side of things, esoteric UK indie art-pop outfit alt-J will be sharing the stage with Japanese indietronica outfit The fin. (fresh off two sold-out gigs in Beijing this year already), revered dubstep and garage producer Mala out of the UK, as well as two of Brooklyn's finest noisemakers, cutting-edge electronically-inflicted post-punkers Liars and the all-female psych rockers Habibi. For something a bit more mainstream, check out glitchy J-pop stars illion and Wednesday Campanella. Or for something with a bit more indie cred, catch a few breakout Taiwan acts in the form of indie janglers Deca Joins, retro poppers Sunset Rollercoaster, and math rock trio Elephant Gym

On the local front, there’s Wuhan emo rock torchbearers Chinese Football, Guangzhou and Dalian post-rock heavyweights Zhaoze and Wang Wen, respectively, rap sensations Lil Akin, Young Jack, and collective ONO. In fact, it appears that the metal stage has been ousted in favor of something altogether more post-rock – another sign of the times and one that will leave many mosh heads saddened. As well as megastars Tsai Chin, Hebe Tien, and legendary Dou Wei (which has all sorts of music geeks coming out of hibernation), you'll of course find other Modern Sky regulars like Re-TROS, Omnipotent Youth Society, New Pants, Miserable Faith, and Casino Demon.

However, even those last acts feel like afterthoughts to what looks like one of the festival’s strongest lineups in some time, making the increased prices well worth it (compared to the other festivals this weekend and last they’re practically a steal). While buses can be caught from Dongzhimen (RMB 50 round-trip), I’d recommend setting up your own transportation and even consider the option of staying overnight. Whatever you decide, you better act fast, as presale tickets are selling out at quite a clip.

It's good to have you back, Strawberry – we're counting down the minutes!

Strawberry Music Festival runs Apr 29 to May 1, 1-10pm. Single day tickets cost RMB 320 advance or RMB 580 on the day via 228 and Damai.

Yuyang International Ski Resort
88 Dawangwucun, Donggaocunzhen, Pinggu District


Sunday, Apr 29

Strawberry Stage 

2-2.50pm: Li Zhi 
3.30-4.10pm: Tizzy T
5.10-5.50pm: Hebe Tien 
6.50-7.50pm: illion (JP)
8.40-9.30pm: Piao Shu

Love Stage

1.10-1.50pm: Casino Demon
2.40-3.20pm: Sunset Rollercoaster
4.10-4.50pm: The Mystery Lights (US)
5.30-6.10pm Sound Fragment
6.50-7.30pm: Yico Tseng
8.10-9pm: Miserable Faith 

Star Stage

1.50-2.20pm: Djang San
2.50-3.30pm: Da Bang
4-4.40pm: Zhou Fengling
5.20-6pm: Haley Heynderickx (US)
6.40-7.20pm: Askar 
8-8.50pm: Tongue

M____D Stage

1.30-2pm: Oddope
3-3.30pm: Lazyair
4.40-5.10pm: Benzo
5.50-6.30pm: Bakerie
7.50-8.30pm: Vinida

Post Sky Stage

2.20-2.50pm: Return to Delicate Time
3.30-4pm: Amber 
4.40-5.20pm: GriffO
6-6.40pm: Sun of Morning
7.20-8pm: Wang Wen

Alienwave Stage (w/ VJ BUZZ)

3.30-4.30pm: Sun Meng
4.30-5.30pm: AY
5.30-6.30pm: Kris
6.30-7.30pm: Halo
7.30-8.30pm: Bass Guo

Young Blood Stage

5.10-5.40pm: Shan Mei Yu
6.20-7pm: No Trace
7.40-8.20pm: The CLF

Monday, Apr 30

Strawberry Stage 

2.20-3.10pm: Zhao Lei
3.50-4.30pm: A-Si
5.20-6pm: The fin. (JP) 
6.40-7.30pm: Omnipotent Youth Society 
8.30-9.10pm: Cai Qin

Love Stage

1-1.40pm: Hang on the Box
2.20-3pm: Liars (US)
3.50-4.30pm: Hei Che
5.20-6pm: Erbai
6.40-7.20pm: Yingtan & Shanxiao
8-8.50pm: New Pants

Star Stage

2-2.30pm: Yunduo
3-3.40pm: Jeno Liu
4.10-4.50pm: Junks (US)
5.30-6.10pm: Zhang Sou
6.50-7.30pm: Mr. Turtle
8.10-9pm: Supermarket

M____D Stage

1.50-2.20pm: Zetah
3.20-3.50pm: Ykey & Pro-Z
4.50-5.20pm: Dungeon Beijing
6-6.40pm: Dirty Twinz
7.30-8.10pm: Lil Akin & VISUDY

Post Sky Stage

2.30-3pm: 48V
3.40-4.10pm: The 16th Floor 
4.50-5.30pm: Chinese Football
6.10-6.50pm: Elephant Gym
7.30-8.10pm Sparrow

Alienwave Stage (w/ VJ BUZZ)

3.30-4.30pm: 777
4.30-5.30pm: Jiang Liang
5.30-6.30pm: TST
6.30-7.30pm: DJ Umbra
7.30-8.30pm: MALA (UK)

Young Blood Stage

4.20-4.50pm: The White Pages 
5.50-6.20pm: Deca Joins 
7.10-7.50pm: Tonxi
8.40-9.20pm: The Fallacy

Tuesday, May 1

Strawberry Stage 

1.30-2.10pm: Tien
2.50-3.30pm: Ma Po
4.20-5.20pm: Wednesday Campanella (JP)
6.10-7pm: Dou Wei
8.10-9.30pm: alt-J (UK)

Love Stage

1-1.40pm: Bian Yuan
2.10-2.50pm: Bai Si Guo
3.20-4pm: Low Wormwood
4.50-5.30pm: Yao Shisan
6.20-7pm: Ara Kimbo
7.40-8.30pm: Re-TROS

Star Stage

1.40-2.10pm: Wu Tiao Ren
2.40-3.20pm: Habibi (US)
4-4.40pm: Mamer & Tatsuya Yoshida (JP)
5.20-6pm: Hang Tian
6.50-7.30pm: Mosaic
8.20-9pm: Longshendao

M____D Stage

1-1.40pm: Da Hao Tao
2.20-2.50pm: Draksun
3.50-4.20pm: 0B03
5.30-6.10pm: ONO
7-7.40pm: Young Jack

Post Sky Stage

2.10-2.40pm: SNSOS
3.30-4pm: Little Wizard
4.40-5.20pm: Glow Curve
6.10-6.50pm: tfvsjs
7.40-8.20pm: Zhaoze

Alienwave Stage (w/ VJ BUZZ)

3.30-4.30pm: Dr Tuan
4.30-5.30pm: Kaize
5.30-6.30pm: Shen Yue
6.30-7.30pm: DJ Code 
7.30-8.30pm: Elvis. T 

Young Blood Stage

5.40-6.10pm: Convention Theory 
6.50-7.30pm: Lucie
8.20-9pm: Four Five

Images: MVM Studio, courtesy of the organizers


Personal Data From Food Delivery Platforms in China on Sale for as Little as RMB 0.10

This post comes courtesy of our content partners at TechNode.

The personal data of people who have ordered food delivery is readily available for sale via several channels, investigative reporting by Beijing News has discovered (in Chinese). Data on offer includes information such as name, phone number, address of thousands of orderers per day, including for orders going to hospitals and even to specific seats in internet cafés. The data is being sold for as little as RMB 0.10 per person.

By infiltrating telephone sales companies who buy up the profiles for cold calling, Beijing News journalists learned that the suppliers are using software to scrape data from order systems and that even take away delivery drivers have been found to be selling the info.

Chen Jinghong sells data on QQ about orderers in first-tier cities. He sells data a rate of 10,000 profiles for RMB 800. He offers the undercover journalists 5,000 profiles and sends a screen grab of an Excel sheet of the data, promising it can be delivered in 15 minutes. The data does not show the date of the order, but he promises it is from within the last two to three days. The journalist agrees, Chen sends a QR code for payment and within 15 minutes the journalist gets the file.

To check it, the journalist picks 100 numbers at random and calls them. 61 were valid numbers that rang, 33 people took the call and confirmed they had placed the order in the last couple of months. When asked why some numbers hadn’t worked, Chen said it’s because of the data entry system, who enter the details of 40,000 orders daily, but that when his data is ready by noon each day, it will definitely be sold by the end of the day.

The journalist found that data was available from all the major platforms such as and Baidu Waimai.

Internet companies that run takeaway shops were also found to be selling on their customer data, including the details of the food itself. This data is more expensive at RMB 0.50 per person, but newer and richer. More expensive still at around RMB 1 per order is the data directly from delivery staff. This comes either in the form of screenshots of the delivery order the drivers are using, or the paper dockets generated and stapled to the parcels of food.

Online data theft is becoming ubiquitous with a report by the Internet Society of China finding that nearly 80% of web users had had their personal information leaked. Last month an artist in Wuhan bought up the data of 346,000 people and put it on display, inviting the people to come and see it. A chip has been developed that attaches to SIM cards to verify user ID without them having to supply their details each time as one way to reduce data leakage.

Photo courtesy of TechNode


Feel the Burn: VSports Threaten to Knock You Out With Their Inimitably Spicy Chicken Wings

In the wake of TBJ's inaugural Hot & Spicy Festivalour fiery restaurant coverage continues with Feel the Burn, in which we look back at what our vendors brought to the event so as to make you sweat. Head to these chili-rife eateries to relive the fiery memories.

At each of our events, VSports never fails to disappoint. Their formula is not an easy one to discern, but something about the Gongti restaurant's pub grub and American-style barbecue satiates the crowd no matter what their specific tastes may be. VSports' showing at out inaugural Hot & Spicy Festival was no different, as their booth tested the crowd with some particularly potent chicken wings covered in chili (see the picture above).

The kitchen's penchant for fire doesn't end there given that they also serve one of, if not the, biggest burger in Beijing, aptly dubbed the Hell Burger (complete with its own 30-minute eating challenge). When they're not tempting Beijing's epi-dangerous eaters, VSports is of course best known for its well-stocked bar, a plethora of in-house bar games, and morning thru late night sports coverage, boasting a huge 20 TV screens and a number of projectors, as well as shared toilets with Mix (should you want to ramp up the action next door).

Below we catch up with VSports' management to see what they brought to our fest as well as what they recommend munching on next time you drop by their venue.

What did you bring to our Hot & Spicy Fest? 
At the festival, we brought a range of new products such as our "devil's spicy" chicken wings, chuanxiang pork ribs, grilled sausage, and fried chicken with chuanxiang sauce. Our chuanxiang ribs have been especially well-received by people who like to break from tradition and improve on the traditional American barbecue taste with an added splash of spice.

What spicy dishes do you sell in your restaurant?
Our chuanxiang pork chops, spicy chicken wings, and Sichuan pork chops are the most popular. For the latter, we select the cuts from Spanish black pigs because unlike with domestically-bred pork, Spanish pork meat has a relatively uniform distribution of fat, which we marinate with spices for 48 hours before firing at a high temperature for 15 minutes.

What drink do you like to pair with spicy food?
I mix my own iced drinks at home by adding frozen fruit to juice before blending and serving with a dollop of jam.

What's the hottest thing you've ever eaten? 
The spiciest food I've eaten is our grilled "devil's spicy" chicken wings.

What’s your go-to spicy comfort food?
Usually, I'll eat some hot pot or barbecue.

In one word, how does eating spicy food make you feel? 
Spicy food changes my taste, my satisfaction, my happiness, and my enjoyment.

If what you're eating becomes way too hot, what do you use to cool off?
If something is too spicy, I'll drink beer (or cider), carbonated drinks, or milk to cool off.

Can you handle more heat? Be sure to check out the latest issue of our Hot & Spicy themed magazine as well as our ongoing chili related restaurant coverage.

Photos courtesy of VSports


Beijing’s Best Events That Won’t Leave You Hungover, Apr 23-29

Our Events Watch series aims to highlight happenings that aren't focused on alcohol and drinking, but instead take a more educational or productive approach. Events include comedy, talks, networking events, markets, and dinners.

Monday, Apr 23

24 Epic Solar Adventures Around China
Head to the Residence of the Embassy of Afghanistan at the beginning of the week for a journey through China's 24 solar terms, which were first mapped out nearly 3,000 years ago and are considered to be the country's "fifth great invention." Dominic Johnson-Hill of Plastered 8 fame has been traveling China for Xinhua as the host of a new television program to uncover how these 24 solar terms are ingrained in Chinese culture and history, including in the use of farming and harvesting. Johnson-Hill will now share some of his stories and pictures with the public. RMB 60, RMB 30 (students). 7.30pm. Residence of the Embassy of Afghanistan

Tuesday, Apr 24

Autonomy: Taking Ourselves Back
Beijing feminists are invited to the Bookworm for a night of discussion, performance, and wine this Tuesday. The talk will focus on ideas surrounding "autonomy" and the work of Kathy D'Arcy, who launched the project of the same name in Ireland in order to campaign towards a change in the country's strict abortion laws. This event is therefore geared to be a safe space to explore the true nature of bodily autonomy, and the consequences of women's private choices becoming the topic of public debate. RMB 50. 7.30pm. The Bookworm

Wednesday, Apr 25

Professional Development Series: Salary Negotiations
Having secured your dream job, how do you now go about getting the salary you deserve? Even if you're already employed, how do you convince your boss that you're worth more? According to the organizers of this event, statistics show that over 50 percent of individuals have never negotiated their salary, but the minority that do have a 75 percent success rate. Experts at the Beijing Women’s Network and JingJobs come together for this salary negotiation discussion to help you get the most out of your employment opportunities. RMB 60-90. 7-9.30pm. InnCube

Thursday, Apr 26

Ice Chiseling: The Art of Gong Chengyu
Artist Gong Chengyu exhibits his latest set of works, which have for the past two years seen him delve into notions of idols, worship, childhood, and mythology and how these are shaped by understandings of the "untouchable." These situations in which society creates its heroes, becomes the source of inspiration for Gong's latest paintings. RMB 10. Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Hive Center for Contemporary Art

Friday, Apr 27

CandleX Dinner: Eat, Play, and Love
Join Beijing-based mental health group CandleX for this family-style dinner on Friday night at Guomao's Arcade by Hatchery. The event hopes to let attendees make friends, laugh, and get some stress off their chest with a healthy dose of Middle Eastern food followed by some bingo. All proceeds will go towards helping CandleX continue its twice-weekly support groups (read more on those here). RMB 160. 7-10pm. Arcade

Saturday, Apr 28

Tibetan Historical and Cultural Relics
This exhibition of Tibetan cultural and artistic relics and monastery items is the largest exhibition in China and displays many artifacts for the first time outside of Tibet. The exhibition will be divided into four parts: Tracing Civilizations, Tianlu Plateau, The Snowy Buddha, and One and the Same. Free (passport required). Tue-Sun 9am-5pm. Capital Museum

Sunday, Apr 29

Dining Out for the Center
Finally, Sunday presents another chance to stuff your face all in the name of a great cause – support of the Beijing LGBT Center. This month, the gang have chosen Dr. Sommer Cuisine as their hangout of choice, which is run by Dr. Sommer, a German-trained chef who makes medieval cuisine. RMB 188. 7-9.30pm. Dr. Sommer Cuisine

Looking for more great events this week? See everything that's happening via our Events page here.

Photos courtesy of the organizers, The Purple Fig


Didi Integrates Public Transport Options Allowing Users to Book a Car to Meet Them at the Bus Stop

This post comes courtesy of our content partners at TechNode.

The latest updates to ride-hailing app Didi allow users to integrate their journey with public transport and hire bikes, plus “virtual meeting points” for better ride-sharing while taxi drivers are hit hard.

Map apps such as Baidu and Tencent have long since offered sophisticated journey planning in China, adding in new options such as hire bikes and ride-hailing. Now Didi is bringing in all the options into its own app to show how a long journey across town can be made up of a mix of Didi and bus, subway and bikes. With start and end points entered, the software presents a range of options with journey length and cost. Not all suggestions contain a Didi ride, but should you choose that itinerary, it’s then just one more tap to summon a Didi for that particular section of the route.

The same update also contains an improvement to the ride-sharing function that provides 2.4 million rides a day. This function allows separate users to effectively share a Didi car if going in roughly the same direction at the same point. The tweak now tells the passengers if a nearby point such as a different junction would be a better place to await the driver if it means the car and other passengers can avoid U-turns or unnecessary detours. These “virtual meeting points” should reduce waiting time as tests have shown they reduce detours by 38 percent.

Another new feature – and perhaps the most useful – allows users to hail both Express (快车) and Premier (专车) cars simultaneously.

The platform’s successes (along with Meituan’s testing) are thought to be having a severe impact on China’s taxi drivers, a report in The Paper finds (in Chinese). A reporter found 170 taxis parked up in Nanjing and began to investigate. Fleets of abandoned taxis were found elsewhere in Nanjing, including new vehicles still well within the seven-year lifespan. The Nanjing Taxi Association told The Paper that in 2017 there were 1,000 inactive taxis in the city but after continued red envelope price wars for hailing fares and driver rewards, that number had risen to 3,000. The number of rides halved from around 40 per day in Nanjing before January 2017 to around 20 a day by 2018 meaning wages for drivers dropped from RMB 5-6,000 to RMB 3-4,000 per month – dropping below the minimum wage – while still working 12-13 hour shifts.

Didi’s global network continues to expand through investments and technology sharing, meaning it now estimates that along with its partners such as Lyft and Careem in 1,000 cities, it now reaches 80 percent of the world population. The company is raising more funds for further expansion.

Images courtesy of TechNode


Feel the Burn: Home Plate BBQ Brings an Americana Twist to the Spicy Fest

In the lead-up to our inaugural Hot & Spicy Festival on Apr 14-15 at Galaxy Soho, we'll Feel the Burn with a few of the vendors to see what fiery wares they'll be slinging come that rapidly approaching fine spring weekend.

What better way to heat things up at this weekend's Hot & Spicy Fest than with Home Plate BBQ's sizzling Deep South fare? Sure, the hugely popular American style restaurant is mostly known for the satisfying heft and savory flavors of its food. But that doesn't mean the Home Plate team doesn't know how to successfully employ a few strategic chillis, in order to hold their own (and then some) against more notoriously spicy fellow vendors at the fest. Below, they tell us more about their Americana take on all things spicy.

Tell us what you’ll be bringing to our Hot & Spicy Fest, and what inspired it.
We will bring our Texas Chili, ranch beans, jalapeno cheddar sausage and burgers. Our inspiration comes from traditional American southern dishes

Which spicy items do you sell in your restaurant? Which are the most popular and why?
Texas beef sauce is the most popular. We made beef sauce with good beef and chilli, corn bread and sour cream.

What drink do you like to pair with spicy food?
We match it with Smoothie Margaritas and craft beer

What’s the hottest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Some peppers from Yunnan. They were super sour!

What’s your go-to spicy comfort food?
Sichuan hot pot

In one word, how does eating spicy food make you feel?


Home Plate BBQ, along with 40 more of Beijing’s top purveyors of chili-infused grub, will be in attendance at our inaugural Hot & Spicy Festival at Galaxy Soho on Apr 14-15. If you have yet to grab your RMB 20 presale ticket, do so by scanning the QR code in the poster above or read more on what to expect here.

Photos: Courtesy of Home Plate


Get ‘Em While They’re Hot: How to Get Hot & Spicy Fest Presale Tickets, and Directions to the Galaxy Soho Event

Chilli heads, take heed: the moment we've all been waiting for is finally upon us. Yes, this weekend's hotly anticipated Hot & Spicy Fest will kick off Saturday, and the fiery fun will continue all the way until Sunday night.

Forty vendors with a globe-spanning range of cuisines (from Sichuanese to the American Deep South, and everything in between) will be slinging their spiciest wares at this event, much to the delight of both seasoned pepper gobblers and the uninitiated. Along with the irresistible food, there'll be plenty of entertainment to get you warm under the collar- from a belly dancing performance to a Sichuan style hip-hop set. 

Directions to the event

"But how do I gain access to all this unrestrained spicy fun?!" you may be asking. Well, the action is right in the center of town, at Zaha Hadid's swooping sci-fi looking Galaxy Soho structure in Chaoyangmen.
Located just a hop, skip, and a jump, Galaxy Soho is a breeze to get to whether you're coming from the north, south, east, or west (to be honest, it's pretty hard to miss).

If you're planning to get there by taxi you can ask your driver to take you to 银河soho (yínhé soho) or 朝阳门桥东南角 (cháoyángmén qiáo dōngnánjiǎo, literally "the southeast corner or Chaoyangmen bridge").

Other Spicy Fest Tidbits

The event runs 11am-8pm both Saturday and Sunday.

Keep in mind that Saturday is going to be a bit windy according to forecasts (but all the delicious spicy food on offer will fortify you against those gusts). Forecasters say Sunday is going to be mild and sunny, however, making it an even better day to spend at this outdoor fest. 

Finally: early bird tickets for Saturday are already sold out, though Sunday tickets are still available (RMB 20 each until Firday, Apr 13). We strongly suggest you buy a ticket in advance so as to avoid queueing to get in. If you do so, you'll also receive a free bandana to use as you please!

That being said, stragglers should never fear: plenty of tickets will also be available on site, just queue up and shell out RMB 25 at the gate.

See you at the fest, fellow spicy devotees!

Scan to buy tickets in English

Scan to buy tickets in Chinese

Photos: the Beijinger, Apple Maps